How to plan a cycling holiday on a budget

Want to get away with your bike but on a budget? Here are a few tips…

Cycling overseas need not cost an arm and a leg. Tom Allen, overseas cycling adventurer and writer (TomsBikeTrip.com), talks us through touring on a budget...

1. Set your level

Start by asking yourself what level of comfort and support you want and can afford, advises Allen. In between the fully organised tour and the entirely self-sufficient one there are ‘self-guided tours’. 

With one of these, the tour operator organises the hotel reservations and transfers your luggage from hotel to hotel, while you ride a marked route each day on your own. Alone but not necessarily unaided, though – many operators offer a helpline in case you encounter emergencies or problems en-route.

2. Camp it up

Camping while you cycle is the cheapest way to tour overseas
Camping while you cycle is the cheapest way to tour overseas

Camping while you cycle is the cheapest way to tour overseas. “Check out where to camp along your route via Warmshowers.org, which lists campsites for touring cyclists across Europe and the world,” says Allen. But be aware that ‘free’ camping is outlawed in some countries.

“Hire or borrow camping gear, or buy it cheap through eBay, the Outdoor Gear UK Facebook group or charity shops in outdoorsy regions. Recycling centres directly after large music festivals are another good place to look.”

3. Count the cost

“If you’re looking to ride and camp in Europe, you can get by on a few Euros a day,” says Allen. Self-tour cycling groups can provide links to accommodation but you won’t have the mechanical back-up some tour groups offer and there’s also the initial cost of taking your bike overseas to consider. 

Most airlines charge for transporting bikes and you’ll need to pack it properly, which may mean dismantling and re-assembling it. Hiring a bike is the easier option, but costs upwards of £50 a week.

4. Hike with a bike

You can ride a National Cycle Network route to Dover, then it's a quick trip on the ferry to mainland Europe
You can ride a National Cycle Network route to Dover, then it's a quick trip on the ferry to mainland Europe

“If you’re heading over to mainland Europe you can get in the saddle almost as soon as you set out by taking the National Cycling Network routes 1 and 16 all the way to Dover," suggests Allen.

Once you get to the channel crossing, then it’s £19.50 with P&O to get the ferry over to France.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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